Stereo Leg prosthetic created for Victoria Modesta by Sophie Oliveira Barata, The Alternative Limb Project, represents the shift to making disability and accessibility solutions aesthetic and expressive

Missed the September 19 awards event? Curious who the Winners were? Check out the Livestream (beginning around the 12 minute mark).

Or read our story here!

The Gallery of Designs and more information on what’s coming next is coming soon!

Get inpired. Watch th awards evening unfold in the video below.

ZeroThreshold: Perspective from Designer Jackie Holzheimer

Established designer and 5th generation business owner of Holzheimer Interiors, Jackie Holzheimer, shares her take on the ZeroThreshold Design Competition.

For student and professional designers who see a world that is not only free of barriers – but freely admired for its beauty and innovation.

Introducing an international architectural design competition with $15,000 in cash awards.

Organized by North Coast Community Homes, providing homes for persons with disabilities for more than three decades, with generous support from the Cleveland Foundation.

More than a competition – A New Way of Design Thinking.

ZeroThreshold is a design competition that is about more than creating accessible spaces. It’s about elevating the idea of accessibility through intentionally beautiful design.

This competition is an important step in changing the conversation about accessibility. Not only will it launch Cleveland towards being the world’s best “barrier- free city”, the solutions that surface can be broadly applicable to cities throughout the United States and around the world.

Winning entries will receive monetary awards and be featured in an exhibition and publication. The strongest and most innovative awards may be constructed in a future second phase of the competition.

The neighborhood of Old Brooklyn, located in Cleveland, Ohio, serves as inspiration and a grounding point for our architects and designers.

Stay informed with news and other important updates: click here.

Final registration and submission deadline has been extended
to July 15, 2019 to accommodate our late registrants.

Join over a hundred individuals and teams
from 20+ different countries – Register today.


Online registration for the ZeroThreshold events is quick and easy. If you’d prefer to reserve your tickets by phone, please call Shannon at 216-365-2619 (M – F from 9 am to 5 pm).

September 19, 2019 Half-Day Design Expo

(Noon – 4:30 p.m.)
Featuring all winning designs stunningly displayed and short videos from the designers!
Ariel International Center, Cleveland

Community Exhibit
Come explore the top designs from the competition laid out in gallery format. Multi-media exhibits with interviews and stories will appear on screens. See the amazing designs that may be coming soon to a neigborhood near you. Learn what inspired designers from all over the world to propose beautiful homes and community spaces for Cleveland, OH.
Discover beauty, innovation, and inspiration.

The exhibit is free, but we encourage a minimum $10 donation to North Coast Community Homes to help provide housing for people with developmental disabilities or severe mental illness.

Ticket Type Price Cart
Community Exhibit - $50 charitable donation $50
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September 19, 2019 Awards Event

(5:30 p.m.)
Ariel International Center, Cleveland


Awards Celebration
The awards celebration will feature an exhibition of the winning and top designs from the competition in each of the categories. Join business, community, and government leaders from across Ohio and the United States to celebrate the culmination of 2019’s most innovative design competition. Exciting speakers, like keynote speaker Chris Downey, will engage and energize guests. Experience the architectural, interior, and urban designs in beautiful detail. Learn who the winners are, what inspired them, and what’s next for ZeroThreshold and a Barrier-Free Cleveland

Beer, wine, and a variety of heavy hors d’oueveres and delectable desserts will be served.
Doors open at 5:30 pm. Free parking is available.

Tickets are $75 for this spectacular evening event.
$40 of your ticket price is tax deductable.

  • City planners and other government employees, please use the discount code: government
  • Community development corporations and other nonprofits, use discount code: nonprofit
to secure your government or nonprofit rate of $45. NOTE: You must use an appropriate .gov or .org email in order to be qualified for the government or nonprofit rate.

Ticket Type Price Cart
(student) Awards Celebration September 19, 2019 $30
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(group) Six tickets, Award Celebration September 19 $360
Add to Cart
(group) Eight tickets, Award Celebration September 19 $400
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Zero Threshold is a design competition that is reimagining accessible housing and accessibility. We’ve partnered with the Cleveland Foundation to challenge local, national and international designers to create floor plans and home mods that are so innovative and attractive that someone without a disability says, “I want that!” We’re pushing the boundaries of a whole industry and meeting critical needs. You can be a part of it! For information on sponsorship opportunities click here:

2019 ZeroThreshold Sponsors


Mont Surfaces by Mont Granite



McGregor Foundation





Todd & Associates



Bialosky Cleveland
Nottingham Spirk
Menorah Park
Michael Weingart




Andrew Frontini
Andrew Frontini
Andrew is a Principal at Perkins+Will and the Design Director of the Toronto and Ottawa studios.
Gyungju Chyon
Gyungju Chyon
Gyungju Chyon is an assistant professor of Product and Industrial Design at Parsons.
Justin Moore
Justin Moore
Justin Garrett Moore is an urban designer and the executive director of the New York City Public Design Commission.
Liz Ogbu
Liz Ogbu
A designer, urbanist, and spatial justice advocate, Liz Ogbu is an expert on social and spatial innovation in challenged urban environments globally.
Sheena McGee
Sheena McGee
Sheena McGee, Allied ASID, is the principal and owner of Sheena McGee Designs in Cleveland, OH.

Visit our Partners

This competition would not be possible without the support of our amazing partners. Learn more here.

North Coast Community Homes (NCCH) provides high quality, community-based homes throughout Northeast Ohio for people with developmental disabilities, severe mental illness, and other disabilities. With the support of many donors, volunteers, and professionals, we have developed and manage more than 220 community-based homes serving more than 1,000 men and women since 1984. In keeping with our mission, homes developed by NCCH are safe, comfortable, and affordable, and are designed to empower persons with disabilities to live fuller, more independent lives. Working with County Boards of Developmental Disabilities and local mental Health agencies, North Coast Community Homes has homes in more than 60 cities across Northeast Ohio.

The Cleveland Foundation’s mission is to enhance the lives of all residents of Greater Cleveland, now and for generations to come, by working together with donors to build community endowment, address needs through grantmaking, and provide leadership on key community issues. The foundation sees the Zero Threshold design challenge as an opportunity to begin the journey towards transforming Cleveland into the world’s best barrier-free city. As such, the organization is proud to provide the financial support to such a forward-thinking initiative.

Mont Surfaces is a wholesale supplier of fine surface materials in natural stone (granite, marble, quartzite, soapstone, onyx, travertine), large-format porcelain slabs, Mont Engineered Surface and Precious stone. With over thirty years of industry experience, Mont Surfaces is recognized as one of the Midwest’s premier wholesale suppliers of fine surface materials for commercial and residential projects. Their products combine sophistication with low maintenance and meticulous performance while transforming each space into a work of art!

C C Hodgson Architectural Group is an architectural firm providing wellness-based design services to visionary clients who are passionate about creating healing environments. Driven by an unwavering belief that environments affect behavior and well-being – that design matters – they apply fresh thinking and innovation. Pioneering wellness design for more than 40 years, many of the concepts they helped bring forward, such as the first research study to track wellness in senior living communities, are now embraced by senior living communities across the nation.

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress was founded in 1988 by philanthropic, civic, and corporate leaders. It serves as the only local community development intermediary in the region. Cleveland Neighborhood Progress is leading the revitalization of Cleveland’s neighborhoods. It impacts the community by providing financial support, training and capacity building efforts to community development corporations (CDCs), supporting and performing placemaking activities to improve residential, commercial and greenspace properties, and delivering economic opportunity programming to ensure city residents can thrive where they live.

The Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) is the combined home of the urban design graduate program at Kent State University and the public service activities of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design. The CUDC’s professional staff of designers are committed to improving the quality of urban spaces through technical design assistance, research and advocacy. Supported by the university and private philanthropy, the CUDC offers architectural and urban design expertise in the service of urban communities, design professionals, and non-profit and academic partners in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.

Maximum Accessible Housing of Ohio (MAHO) provides and promotes accessibility for all people, at home and in the community. The extensive accessibility features in our Vistas Apartment Communities provide over 150 people with disabilities with the opportunity to live more independently. Our Anderson Center for Accessible Living promotes accessible housing and inclusive communities through education and outreach. We are acutely aware of the need for accessible housing and hope that the Zero Threshold Design Competition will provide inspiration and impetus for development of more accessible housing.

Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation is a non-profit in the Cleveland community with the mission to develop and revitalize the community by uniting and empowering residents, business leaders, and government around plans and initiatives to achieve social, economic and civic improvement. Old Brooklyn and Cleveland are changing, and that change is the result of many factors. Many of these factors: demographics, the regional economy, and market sensitivities, lie outside the control of individual organizations. We hope the Zero Threshold competition will be a launching point for additional growth, development, and opportunity for Old Brooklyn, Cleveland, and beyond.


“Inspiration comes from The (dis)Abled Beauty Exhibition, Showcasing the most incredible and artistic solutions for people with missing limbs and other challenges such as hearing loss. If we could completely change our thinking about human solutions, can we disrupt the conversation on accessibility?”

– NCCH Leadership Team


Release of Competition Brief – 7 January 2019
Question & Answer Period – 7 January – 31 May 2019
Early Registration Deadline – 8 March 2019
Standard Registration Deadline – 30 June 2019
Late Registration Deadline – 30 June 2019
Submission Deadline – 15 July 2019
Awards Announcement – 19 September 2019
Awards Celebration – 19 September 2019

Awards + Recognition

A Total of $15,000 US dollars and other recognitions will be awarded as follows:

Grand Prize$8,000*
Retrofit - Colonial/Duplex$2,000
Single Family - New Construction$1,000
Accessory Dwelling Unit$1,000
Community Gathering Space$1,000
Holistic/Neighborhood Approach$1,000
Student Award$1,000**
Best Practices in AccessibilityHonorable mention, exhibition, publication.
*the grand prize is awarded in addition to the specific category prize that the entry is submitted for. ** the student award is awarded to the best student submission from any category.


• The competition is open to design students and professionals, working individually or on teams. • Student submissions may be the product of work in a design studio or related class. • Judging of competition entries will occur anonymously. Submissions must designate a primary contact person for communication purposes only. • Staff and Board members of North Coast Community Homes, and all competition partners and advisors are prohibited from participating in the competition. • No jury member may advise or assist a competitor in any way. • Entrants assisted by any competition partner or jury member will be disqualified.

Competition Structure

Zero Threshold is an ideas competition for a real-world problem. In this first phase of the competition, entrants are encouraged to envision bold and innovative ideas for housing, public spaces, and neighborhoods that expand the practice of accessible design and barrier-free living.

A later phase of the competition will advance the strongest ideas into implementation…

Evaluation Criteria

Competition entries will be evaluated based on:

• Accessibility: Readily usable by people with varying degrees of physical ability.

• Responsiveness: Understanding the needs of people with disabilities and conveying the ways that your proposal addresses those needs in an innovative and design-forward manner.

• Innovation: Bold new ideas or new variations on established best practices in accessible design that reframe accessible elements as something to be celebrated, rather than hidden or downplayed.

• Transferability: Concepts that apply to the specific physical, social, and economic context of Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood (see Inspiration section of this website) but can also be adapted to other places.

• Affordability: Housing solutions that are economically accessible to middle-income households and aligned with housing values in middle neighborhoods.

Competition Programs + Categories

Entrants are invited to submit conceptual designs for one or a combination of these categories:

1) New Residential Construction for an infill site in an urban neighborhood: Design for a new, fully accessible house on an infill lot that fits into the context of a traditional neighborhood while advancing new ideas about the aesthetics of accessibility. We do not expect full house plans, just conceptual designs. See the attached map for examples of infill sites in the target neighborhood for the competition.

2) Accessory Dwelling: Accessory dwelling units can be detached from the primary structure, attached to the primary structure, or a repurposed existing space, like a garage or a spare bedroom within the primary residence that is converted into a fully accessible, independent living unit.

3) Housing Retrofit/Remodel: Design ideas that transform traditional urban housing for maximum accessibility. Two housing types—a single-family Cleveland bungalow and a two-family duplex are the focus of the retrofit category. See attached photos and floor plans for representative examples of these housing types. Please note: it is not necessary to provide detailed construction drawings. Entrants should provide drawings and descriptions that best characterize accessibility improvements through graphics that visually convey innovative aspects of your proposal.

4) Community Gathering Place: Landscape design/urban design for a vacant lot (or lots) that create an inclusive, barrier-free places for neighborhood residents to interact. See the attached map for examples of vacant lots in the target neighborhood for the competition.

5) Neighborhood-wide/Holistic Approach to Accessibility: Urban design strategies that remove barriers and embrace an entire block or neighborhood.

6) Student Submissions: Students can submit in any of the previous five categories. Student submissions will be juried separately from professional submissions.

7) Hybrid Submissions: (content to come)


In the real-world neighborhood of Old Brooklyn in Cleveland, OH, there are existing bungalows, duplexes, empty lots, accessory dwellings, and shared community spaces. Ultimately, accessibility encompasses many things: physical structures, accessibility features, affordability, and, potentially, community engagement. For this reason, we’ve selected this neighborhood with multiple typographies for your inspiration.

Your idea should be transferrable to a neighborhood like Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn. By using this setting as your inspiration, your idea will be more real, more practical for every day life, and easier to assimilate into similar settings that exist in cities around the world.

You can do it! Take a deep dive into an innovative new construction. Renovate an old home. Fill an empty space. Add to an existing home. Your imagination is your limitation. And Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn is your inspiration.

Your design will be evaluated on five key design tenants:

• Accessibility: The ability to be readily usable by people with varying degrees of physical ability.

• Responsiveness: Understanding the needs of people with disabilities and conveying the ways that your proposal addresses those needs in an innovative and design-forward manner.

• Innovation: Bold new ideas or new variations on established best practices in accessible design that reframe accessible elements as something to be celebrated, rather than hidden or downplayed.

• Transferability: Concepts that apply to the specific physical, social, and economic context of Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood (see Inspiration section of this website) but can also be adapted to other places.

• Affordability: Housing solutions that are economically accessible to middle-income households and aligned with housing values in middle neighborhoods.


Entering the competition is a two-step process.

Step One

Participants will register for one or more categories by completing the registration form and paying the registration fee by credit card or PayPal.

There are 5 distinct categories for the competition: Retrofit of existing colonial or duplex, single family new construction, an accessory dwelling unit, a community engagement or gathering space, a holistic or neighborhood approach.

Professional designers, students, and others may enter one or more categories by selecting the appropriate quantity.


Registration fees are as follows:

01/07/19 - 03/08/19
03/09/19 - 06/30/19
06/30/19 - 07/15/19
Studio or Class$150$200$300
Student (Individual)$0$40$75
Best Practices in Accessibility
(no $ award)

Step Two

After participants complete their registration, they will receive an email within 48 hours providing a link to the submission site. Registrants can enter their submission anytime between the date they register and the end of the submission deadline, July 15, 2019 (DEADLINE EXTENDED). NOTE: registrants are not locked into a specific category until they make a digital submission to that category. Registration allows for submission.

Upon digital submission to a category, a $100 printing and processing fee will be incurred by participants for each individual submission. Participants will not have to print or ship their own boards, as this service is provided as part of the competition.


Awards are available for each category and include both a grand prize and special student prize.

Grand Prize$8,000*
Retrofit - Colonial/Duplex$2,000
Single Family - New Construction$1,000
Accessory Dwelling Unit$1,000
Community Gathering Space$1,000
Holistic/Neighborhood Approach$1,000
Student Award$1,000**
Best Practices in AccessibilityHonorable mention, exhibition, publication.
*the grand prize is awarded in addition to the specific category prize that the entry is submitted for. ** the student award is awarded to the best student submission from any category.

In addition to the above cash awards, at the juries discretion, some entries will receive honorable mentions based on anything from innovation to buildability, or some other characteristic or category not yet defined.

Select entries, including those winning a cash award or receiving an honorable mention, will also be included in a published coffee table style book. Winners of prizes or honorable mentions will receive a free copy of the book.

If you experience ay difficulties registering, or have questions, please contact us –




Q: What is the current Zoning of the area specified?

A: The existing zoning for the target area is One Family and Two Family Residential. Because the goal is to encourage new ideas, solutions which challenge the parameters of this designation will be considered.  

Q: Will only the winners have the potential to be awarded a building contract?
A: Yes.  

Q: Are contemporary/modern designs okay?
A: Yes. Our main interest is high quality design where the massing is consistent with the rest of the neighborhood. However, other highly innovative or novel designs will also be considered.  

Q: Can students participate?
A: Students are welcome to participate both in teams and as individuals. Advisors and professors can likely recommend firms to contact if they are looking for professional teaming.

Q: Can non-architects participate?
A: Yes. The competition is open to anyone with a vision for Zero Threshold: students, artists, landscape designers, planners, industrial designers, etc.  

Q: Who will fund construction?
A: The second phase will be funded through the Cleveland Foundation.   

Q: Is there a registration fee?
A: Yes. There is a registration fee for professionals and for students. Only one registration fee is due per individual or team. If entering more than one category, a registration fee must be paid for each category entered. Students are able to participate at a discounted rate, and for students, the registration fee is $0 until March 08, 2019.

Q: Is there a separate entry submission fee?
A: Yes. The submission fee of $100 is paid at the time you actually submit the files for your entry and includes printing costs. This saves all entrant printing and mailing costs for their boards. A separate submission fee is due for each entry.  

Q: How are submissions made? Online or by mail?
A: Submission of files for your entry can only be accepted online. Entrants will be provided a unique ID as well as a link t the submission site within 2business days of registering. Further instructions for submission, including file types and naming conventions are found in the Competition Brief available online.  

Q: Are international submissions acceptable?
A: Yes. We welcome submission from any country.   

Q. Can a licensed architect that does not have their own firm submit?
A. Yes.    

Q. Can a firm submit multiple submissions?
A. Yes. As noted earlier in the FAQ, each submission requires its own registration and submission fee. There are no other limitations to making multiple submissions.  

Q. Will higher density be considered than current zoning allows?
A. Creative thinking about land use density is encouraged and will not negatively impact your submission. We will address potential changes to zoning during the negotiation and construction phase of the project.  

Q. What are the sizes of the lots?
A. You can check the dimensions directly at the Cuyahoga County GIS Mapping Application A single lot is generally 35’/40’ x approximately 100’.  

Q. The brief states that “Competition entries are expected to respond to the local context,” which is referencing the Old Brooklyn neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. Does that mean the project site has to be in Cleveland or can it be elsewhere?
A. Yes, design proposals need to be for project sites in Cleveland and should also be transferable to other locations.  

Q. Where can we find the square footage for the lots?
A. A typical lot in Cleveland is (12 x 36.5 meters). You can also check the dimensions directly at the Cuyahoga County GIS Mapping Application for any of the specific lots. You can find that here –

Q. At this stage, can we choose any of the lots designated on the map that is in the brief?
A. Yes, you can choose any of the designated lots on the map in the brief, or use a generic urban lot that is 40’ x 120’ (12 x 36.5 meters). For the rehab category, please use one of the standard floor plans provided in the brief. If your design moves forward into a subsequent implementation phase, you will be invited to adapt your design concept for a specific, existing house.

Q. I’m a student joining the competition with my classmates. Do I register as a “Student” or do I select “Studio?”
A. Please register one team leader or point of contact as a student. During your submission, you’ll have the opportunity to list all of the team members working on the project. Studio registrations are for faculty or schools that wish to make the competition available to their whole class.

Q. If I’m registering as part of a team, do I need to register each team member’s name or just my own as the team leader?
A. Whether you are registering yourself as an individual or are registering a whole team, you only need to register one person (a team leader or one contact person) for the competition. When you submit, you will be asked to include the names and contacts for each team member. We do not need each team member during registration – only when you make your submission.

Q. I am excited to enter in this new design competition as a student. Unfortunately, the $100 printing fee is a high cost for me. Are there any student discounts or sponsorship opportunities for this fee?
A. Sponsorship opportunities for students/teams will come available as we gain corporate sponsors for the competition. More details will become available later on and will be published online. This FAQ will be updated as well. Remember you have until June 28, 2019, to make your final submission.

Q. Where can I download or find the existing conditions AutoCAD drawings for the retrofit category?
A. Page 12 of the brief has a download link for those files. The text on that page reads: CAD, Photoshop, and PDF files are available for download. Please visit –

Once you download the zip file, you will find three other zip files inside. One for CAD. One for Photoshop. One for PDFs. The appropriate files for the bungalow, colonial, and duplex are in each zipped folder.

Q. I want to register for a specific category of the competition, but I don’t see how to do that? How do I let you know what category I’m competing in?
A. You do not select a specific category when you register for the competition. Instead, you will select the category when you make your submission. This allows participants more flexibility in deciding what category (or categories) they’d like to offer ideas in.

More questions and answers will continue to be posted through May 31, 2019.

You may also submit questions to Those questions will be veted and any new answers will be posted here in the FAQ.

Contact Us

Keep Informed

We’ll only email you when we have important new information to share about the Zero Threshold competition!

Artistically designed prosthesis